Posted August 22nd, 2017
The Texas football program dates back to 1893. Each day, we look at a little piece of Longhorn history. We’re starting by looking at each Longhorn football season.
The 2005 season was supposed to be all about the defending champion University of Southern California Trojans.
They had the Heisman Trophy winner returning. They had a superstar running back returning and no coach, not even Mack Brown, was on a better roll than one Pete Carroll.
As it did with Miami a few years earlier, Florida State and Nebraska the decade before and even Texas in the late 1960s and early 1970s, the college football world revolved around one program, USC.
Texas had returned to national relevance a few years earlier under Brown, who took over following 12 years of mostly letdowns. His ability to recruit was renowned, but up until 2005 he was probably most known for being the most successful active coach in college football to have not won a national championship. And at the University of Texas, continually knocking on doors but never opening them put coaches’ jobs in jeopardy (i.e. Darrell Royal and Fred Akers at the end of their tenures).
There were doubters of Brown. After his first three seasons Statesman reporters and columnists were writing about his inability to win more than nine games in a season. He was wracked over coals for how he handled quarterback situations in 2000, 2001 and in parts of 2003.
When Dusty Mangum’s kick went through against Michigan in the 2005 Rose Bowl, Brown’s story began to change and the next season would forever make him a legend and part-time folk hero in Austin.
Along with Vince Young.
Young had a rough freshman season, splitting time with Chance Mock, and wasn’t used in passing situations. His first year as the starter got off to a rocky start, but by the end of the year– while he was throwing game-winning touchdowns on the road against Kansas and leading comebacks in the Rose Bowl — it was clear that Young was more than just another quarterback at Texas.
He was a talent that could forever change the way football was played with his blend of athletic ability, passing ability and size.
Everyone saw it entering the year. Texas received the No. 2 ranking, which was almost like being ranked No.1 since USC was so much the favorite to win it all that, to many, it felt like every program was playing for No. 2 anyway. Just like three years earlier when Miami returned everyone from a national championship team.
That Miami team lost to Ohio State in the Fiesta Bowl. And Texas’ national championship dreams began on the Buckeyes’ home field.
OK, so Texas actually started the season with a win over Louisiana-Lafayette, a 60-3 beatdown, but we’ll forget that happened and start with Sept. 10, 2005. No. 2 Texas went to No. 4 Ohio State.
If you’ve ever been to Columbus, Ohio, on game day, then you know that playing in “The Shoe” is about as difficult as free climbing Mount Everest. The Buckeyes hardly lose at home, and this team was one of coach Jim Tressel’s best groups. Ohio State’s defense had eight players who would play in the NFL, including A.J. Hawk, the nation’s best linebacker in 2005.
The Ohio State offense featured three future NFL first-round picks at receiver alone and a handful of future NFL offensive linemen. The 2006 Heisman Trophy winner, Troy Smith, was the backup quarterback and three more NFL first round picks, linebacker James Laurinaitis, defensive back Malcolm Jenkins and defensive lineman Vernon Gholston were backups.
Now, Texas wasn’t shabby. Every member of Texas’ defensive backfield — Tarell Brown, Cedric Griffin, Michael Griffin and Michael Huff — as well as reserve Aaron Ross would all play in the NFL. Future All-Pro defensive lineman Brian Orakpo was a backup for Texas. Instead of the Kansas City Chiefs’ All-Time leading rusher, Jamaal Charles, starting as a freshman for Texas, it was Ramonce Taylor starting at running back — and he was fantastic. Texas was so loaded that Henry Melton, a future standout defensive tackle in the NFL, was on the roster scoring touchdowns as a running back.
At the end of the 2004 season, the college football gods gave us Texas-Michigan for the first time. In 2005, college football gods gave us Ohio State-Texas — at the time the two largest universities in America — for the first time.
The game was an instant classic.
All summer long Young and the Longhorns had been eyeing the Buckeyes. The junior quarterback famously wrote on a locker room bulletin board “If you want to beat Ohio State, meet me here every night at 7 p.m. for seven-on-seven.”
After taking a 10-0 lead to start the game, Texas saw Ohio State rally back in the second quarter with 16 points — including a touchdown from future Super Bowl MVP Santonio Holmes. Ohio State led 16-13 at halftime. After trading field goals, Ohio State led entering the fourth quarter 22-16.
With 5:12 left in the game and Ohio State nearing the end zone the first of several big plays happened in the final minutes.
Ohio State fans will curse Ryan Hamby. Texas fans will credit Cedric Griffin for making a heady football play:
Hamby bobbled a touchdown catch twice only for Griffin, who never quit on the play, to hit Hamby forcing the tight end to drop the ball.
Texas took over, and less than three minutes later Young and Sweed proved that the 7-on-7 work paid off, as Young hit Sweed with a 24-yard touchdown to tie the game and eventually take the lead, 23-22.
The Buckeyes got the ball back. Not only couldn’t they move it, but they were forced into a safety.
Statesman columnist Kirk Bohls wrote: “In the end, with what seemed like half of the entire state of Ohio hollering its lungs off and most of the Buckeye defense bearing down on quarterback Vince Young, Texas went against character.
And by doing so, proved its character.”
The 25-22 win is one of the best regular-season victories of the Mack Brown era and helped start the Longhorns’ championship run. Ohio State went 10-2 that season, losing to Penn State in Happy Valley, and finished the season ranked fourth in the final poll after demolishing Notre Dame in the Fiesta Bowl.
Texas won its next two games against Rice and Missouri by a combined score of 102-30.
That set up a game against Brown’s biggest pothole: Oklahoma.
The Sooners were in a transition year. Oklahoma entered the game 2-2 and trying to break in a freshman quarterback, Rhett Bomar. They also were with a limited Adrian Peterson, who in the loss to Kansas State had hurt his ankle.
Texas was ranked No. 2. The Longhorns hadn’t beaten the Sooners since 1999. In that time they had been beaten in a variety of ways. Twice they allowed Oklahoma to score more than 60 points. The year before they didn’t allow a touchdown, but couldn’t score one either. In 2002, Oklahoma scored 21 points in the fourth quarter to win 35-24.
This was curse territory.
Texas won 45-12, led 24-6 at halftime and 31-6 heading to the fourth quarter. Charles had 116 yards rushing. Young threw for 241 yards and three touchdowns. Billy Pittman caught two touchdowns and had 100 yards receiving. The win was capped off by defensive lineman Rodrique Wright’s 67-yard fumble return for a touchdown.
“We did it for Mack, ” Texas linebacker Robert Killebrew screamed on the field according to Bohls.
Enjoy, Texas fans:
The scores were stupid for Texas. The Longhorns scored at least 40 points in every game but one that season — against Ohio State — and re-wrote the record books.
Texas had somewhat of a close game against Texas A&M. Leading 34-29 entering the fourth quarter, Texas converted two field goals to eventually win 40-29.
Remember when Texas had a chance to play for a national title in 2001, but a loss to Colorado in the Big 12 Championship game ruined everything?
Well, Colorado won the Big 12 North that season and played Texas in the very same game.
The 7-4 Buffaloes trailed 42-3 at halftime. Texas won 70-3.
The Rose Bowl was happening.
Away from Texas, USC’s dream 2005 season, where they were trying to complete a “Three-Pete” as national champions, was going smoothly aside from several close calls.
There was the “Bush Push” game against Notre Dame. The “Not even Aaron Rodgers can beat us” shellacking of California. The “Oh, my, just give the Heisman to Reggie Bush performance against No. 16-ranked Fresno State” game. USC ended the year with a 66-19 win over UCLA.
The Rose Bowl was happening for USC.
Off the field, the Heisman Trophy debate raged. USC quarterback Matt Leinart was the returning winner and college football’s biggest star, famously opting to return to campus despite the near unanimous belief he’d be the No. 1 pick in the NFL Draft in 2005. Bush had wowed from day one and Young simply had the best dual-threat quarterback season ever.
Young rushed for 1,050 yards and 12 touchdowns. He passed for 3,036 yards with 26 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. Young completed 65.2 percent of his attempts.
Bush won the Heisman. He had 1,740 rushing yards and 16 touchdowns. He also had 478 yards receiving. His kick returning, with three punt returns for touchdowns and one kickoff return that helped push him over the edge.
And at the time, it didn’t even seem like much of a question as to who should win the Heisman. Bush received the second most first-place Heisman votes since another USC running back, O.J. Simpson.
Statesman humor columnist John Kelso voiced the sentiment many Longhorn fans had: the Heisman doesn’t matter, the Rose Bowl does.
Bohls wrote that the Heisman loss would fuel Young: “Vince is angry. And that’s a good thing for Texas.”
The Heisman debate further built anticipation for what was set up to be a mega showdown between two historically great teams hailing from two of the most prestigious programs in college football history.
The Trojans had won 34 straight games. Texas had won 19 straight, dating back to the 2004, 12-0 loss to Oklahoma. USC was a 7-point favorite playing near its campus.
Here’s the ABC pregame promo because it’s still awesome:
The best way to break down this game? Hookem.com already did. The website launched in time for the the 10-year anniversary of the 2005 season. Since then, the website has written more about the 2006 Rose Bowl than any other game.
Texas beat USC 41-38 and Young had one of the greatest performances in college football history.
Texas won its fourth national championship by winning the greatest game in program history.
Of course, USC has vacated everything associated to the 2005 season because of Bush and NCAA violations.
The next few months were filled with intense hot takes over the NFL Draft. Young was the best quarterback in college football and his hometown, Houston, had the No. 1 pick. There was Reggie Bush. A darkhorse player, Mario Williams, was gaining momentum.
Houston controversially took Williams No. 1. Bush went third and the Tennessee Titans, the former Houston Oilers, took Young third. Michael Huff was taken a few picks later by the Oakland Raiders at No. 7.
Young went on to win rookie of the year in the NFL before coming to a stop several years ago. In the spring of 2017, Young announced he was coming out of retirement to play in the Canadian Football League. He suffered a season-ending injury and his status moving forward is unclear.
Few programs would move on from one great player to the next like Texas did. The Longhorns had another great recruiting class in 2005, but it would be a little talked about quarterback from Jim Ned High School in West Texas who’d pick up the reigns from Young. His name was Colt McCoy. He was a redshirt in 2005.
Texas wasn’t about to take any major steps backward.